ARGUMENTS have resurfaced over a controversial hydro-electric scheme for Marlow, with fears the recent flooding could be made worse in future if the scheme went ahead.
Opinion has been divided over the proposal to install two four-metre electricity generating turbines on Marlow weir since the plans emerged last year.
The £2million-plus project, which is currently being investigated, has attracted derision from residents, anglers and the Compleat Angler Hotel, which overlooks the weir. And aside from the cosmetic implications of the giant ‘Archimedes screws’, concern has resurfaced over the impact the scheme would have on river levels following the widespread flooding since the new year.
Mike Post, who used to be Bisham's flooding chief, said: "It would block up a significant portion of the weir with complicated mechanical means to get the water through. "There would be have to be substantial extra gates along the weir to let the water through where the proposed turbines would be. "If you block the flood flow it would cause problems upstream and It would certainly cause more problems for the Compleat Angler.
"The Environment Agency should get back to dredging the river and protecting the environment not leasing out the weir and making money out of it. It is vandalistic nonsense and a ludicrous so called renewable power alternative."
When controversy arose in November over the possible impact of the turbines on flood levels, the Environment Agency (EA) was quick to dispel the concerns. The agency claims a separate, three metre wide flood control gate would act as compensation for the turbines. Hydropower project manager Stephen Naylor said: "What we believe that Marlow is that there is good potential for generation of electricity. The environmental impacts will be negligible really. "In terms of the impacts of the screws the flow going through the system will continue to go straight into the weir pools.
"The floodgate that you would need specific as part of the scheme would manage the flood flows."
Southeast Power Engineering (SEPEL), the company who would perform the installation, was also dismissive of any flooding fears.
MD David DeChambeau said the EA would never let his company "anywhere near" the weir if the project meant reducing the flow to the weir or creating more flooding.
Former parliamentary Green Party candidate John Laker, who lives in Marlow, has also rubbished suggestions the hydropower scheme would add to the flooding problems seen across the area in the last few weeks.
He said: "This will be a relatively small thing in the context of the weir’s width.Flooding has nothing to do with it, there are controls about the amount of water that goes through. "The Environment Agency will control the weir gate and locks and if things get dangerous they open them. The likelihood of something like this adding to the flooding is extremely remote. "In winter rivers tend to fill up and flow faster, and it will be more effective in winter when the river flows quickly. When other sources of power are at a low point, this will be relatively high, so it’s a win win situation."
The scheme, which SEPEL believe could power between 400 and 500 homes, is currently at the pre-application stage. The EA has confirmed data is being gathered for the weirpool that will map the existing environmental habitat and influence the design of the scheme.
Despite the visual concerns, the agency insists it will work with SEPEL to create a "sympathetic design" and consult with residents, businesses and the town council.
Thames Valley Angling Association, which has about 2,000 members, has blasted what it called the 'hideous' proposal.